Strengthen your ELA instruction and student reading comprehension with these poems on love for middle and high school students.
CommonLit offers hundreds of engaging poems for students to practice close reading and boost their critical thinking skills. These seven poems on love are perfect for supplementing your upcoming poetry unit. They will challenge your students to make text-to-self connections and ponder deeply about the different kinds of love that exist, including familial, romantic, and unrequited love.
"I Am Offering This Poem" by Jimmy Santiago Baca (6th Grade)
Although the speaker of the poem has nothing of monetary value to give, he offers this poem as a sign of his love and support, assuring the recipient that it will help them endure difficult times.
Jimmy Santiago Baca’s use of figurative language amplifies the speaker’s feelings for the poem’s recipient, as he compares his love to something sustaining, like food and shelter. You can gauge students’ comprehension of the text with CommonLit’s reading assessment, which includes questions like, “How does the repetition of the line ‘I love you’ contribute to the overall meaning of the poem?”
"What Love Isn't" by Yrsa Daley-Ward (7th Grade)
Yrsa Daley-Ward provides a truthful message about love by listing everything it is not. As she claims, love is not shallow compliments or a “five star stay,” does not always taste “sweet,” but is “nutritious” and “solid.”
To help students understand Daley-Ward’s stance on love, ask Discussion Question 1: “How is love often portrayed in the media? Is this an accurate representation of love? Why or why not?” This particular question will encourage students to make text-to-self connections to Daley-Ward’s poem.
"Mothers" by Nikki Giovanni (8th Grade)
Reflecting on her relationship with her mother, the speaker in this poem recollects a childhood memory. She remembers waking up late at night and finding her mother sitting under the moonlight, perhaps waiting for the speaker’s father to return home from work. In the speaker’s memory, the mother recites a poem about the moon, which the speaker shares with her own son when she is older.
The speaker’s recital of the poem suggests that she had a strong relationship with her mother. She not only remembers the words to the poem, but the speaker also recites it to her own child, passing on the love she felt from her mother to another generation. You can inspire students to make text-to-self connections about parental love by asking Discussion Question 1: “How has growing up influenced your views on your parents?”
"The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe (9th Grade)
Mourning his deceased love, Lenore, the speaker tries to read to take his mind off her. Suddenly, a tapping sound comes from the door, but he doesn’t find anyone when he opens it. When he opens a window, a raven flies inside. As he talks to the raven, the speaker realizes that it might be connected to Lenore. He shrieks at the raven, telling it to leave, but it does not.
The raven’s continued stay confirms to the speaker that the despair he feels for his lost love will remain. With this text, you can lead a classroom discussion focused on Discussion Question 2: “In the context of this poem, how are we changed by love? Cite evidence from ‘The Raven,’ from your experience, and from other works of literature or art.” This question will help students understand how the death of Lenore has affected the speaker of the poem.
Check out CommonLit’s free digital library to supplement your ELA curriculum with additional poems and short stories by Edgar Allen Poe.
"When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats (10th Grade)
In this poem, the speaker warns his unrequited love that she will regret not having loved someone who loved her when she is “old and grey.”
Yeats wrote this love poem for Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne. While Yeats was deeply in love with Maud, she did not feel the same way for him. After students finish reading the text, ask Discussion Question 1: “In your opinion, what should someone do if they love someone who doesn't love them back?” This question will help students understand Yeats and Gonne’s differing point of views.
"Tristan and Isolde" by Lady Jane Wilde (11th Grade)
Based on the Celtic tale of the same name, Wilde retells the tragic story of Tristan and Isolde through poetry. After consuming a potion, Tristan and Isolde fall in love, but Isolde is betrothed to King Mark, so they must keep their affections for one another a secret. The secrecy of their affair weighs on them, prompting them to think that facing death would be easier than hiding their affair. In the end, it is clear that they will face difficulties as a couple, since their love isn’t enough to sustain their relationship.
With this poem on love and relationships, you can instruct students to focus on word choice and teach a lesson on rhyme scheme. Students can refer to CommonLit's annotations, which include word definitions and footnotes, to ensure that they understand the archaic language in the poem. You can measure their reading comprehension with CommonLit’s assessment questions for the text, including, “What does the conclusion (Lines 60-69) of the poem suggest about Tristan and Isolde, and how does this impact the overall meaning of the poem?”
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"by T.S. Elliot (12th Grade)
Wandering through a city, the speaker imagines what it would be like if he were there with a romantic partner. He contemplates his life, confessing his fear of rejection, which makes him indecisive about approaching women. The speaker concludes that he will grow old doing nothing daring, like confessing his feelings to a woman.
Focused on the themes of love and mortality, T.S. Elliot begins the poem with a confessional verse about death from Dante’s Inferno. Challenge your students with Discussion Question 1: “Why is this poem called a ‘love song’? Cite evidence from the text while explaining your answer.” This question will help students understand how “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is not a traditional love poem.
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